LETTER: $100 billion? Where did that come from?

GP 7/1/13:

I AM writing in response to the letter written by the Liberal candidate for the seat of Hume dated 2nd January 2013 in which he refers to an independent candidate for the seat of Hume, by which I am assuming he means myself.

Despite his off the cuff personal statements and ‘positions’ found by wading through the Liberal candidate’s Facebook commentary on his website, the Liberal candidate has failed to extract any commitments from his Liberal Party colleagues to deliver anything of significance to Hume. This is despite the Liberal Party having made commitments to spend many billions of dollars on projects such as the upgrade of the Pacific Highway and the WestConnex motorway.

Given that on the 14th December, 2012, the Liberal candidate stated to the Post that a number of major projects in Hume would be ‘on the back burner for many years’ then it appears that the Liberal Party views Hume as a safe seat which it can continue to take for granted and for which it need do very little.

In addition, the Liberal candidate has failed to obtain any clear commitment from his Liberal Party federal and state colleagues not to build a second Sydney airport at Wilton or to halt coal seam gas development at the eastern end of the electorate.

In his letter, the Liberal candidate promotes the project of an inland rail route between Melbourne and Brisbane as a way of reducing the number of B-Doubles and potentially B-Triples from using the Hume Highway.

However, the Melbourne-Brisbane Rail Alignment Study published in July 2010 by ARTC, shows that building such an inland rail route will have little, if any, impact upon road freight transporting produce to and from Sydney through Hume and for destinations within Hume.

The inland rail route is designed mainly to re-direct some rail freight from using the coastal railway between Melbourne and Brisbane, and not to reduce road freight in and out of Sydney. There may be some impact upon Melbourne - Sydney and Sydney - Brisbane freight movements but the study has no final findings in that regard.

Additionally, the Liberal candidate’s plan to divert freight from the Hume electorate could well work against Goulburn’s ambitions to encourage investment and to create jobs in the region through becoming a rail/freight/logistics hub.

The only part of the electorate which would be impacted directly by this inland rail route would be at the far western end where a new rail connection is proposed to be built between Stockinbingal and Ilabo.

The existing line between Stockinbingal and Parkes via Caragabal would form part of the route.

According to the report, the outturn capital cost of building the inland rail route is estimated to be $4.7 billion. The report also questions both the financial and economic viability of the project until freight volumes increase, sometime after 2020.

This may be an excellent long term national project, but it would appear to be of little direct benefit to Hume now or in the future.

The Liberal candidate refers to my advocacy of a number of projects in Hume. As I stated in my last letter to the Post, I see these projects as objectives to be worked towards over a number of years, some with higher priority than others. Many involve private investment or are long term planning initiatives.

Is the Liberal candidate suggesting that the studies conducted by local, state and federal governments and private enterprise into the Goulburn rail freight and logistics hub, the Blayney to Demondrille railway re-commissioning ($10.5m initial line rehabilitation followed by $10m maintenance every five years plus $2 million working capital), the Maldon to Dombarton railway (between $550m and $700m), and the Barton Highway duplication ($264m 2007 election Coalition commitment) are all just ‘thought bubbles’?

The Liberal candidate provides no basis for his estimate of $100 billion as being the cost of the initiatives which I have outlined. I have stated that in many cases studies would still need to be completed into the viability of projects. I am not advocating waste of limited resources.

I do have ambitions for the electorate of Hume. It would appear that a number of local governments in the electorate share these ambitions, as do many of Hume’s voters. Things can be better and should be better in Hume. I am prepared to fight to make them better.

James Harker-Mortlock, Independent Candidate for Hume

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